How Hard Are Accelerated Nursing Programs?

With its intense workload and fast-paced curriculum, accelerated nursing programs can be hard and rigorous, but if you are proactive, smart with your time and self-aware, then the challenging program will be worth it as you reach your goal of becoming a nurse much quicker.

track and field runner jumping over a hurdle

If you were to ask a group of accelerated nursing school grads to describe the learning experience, you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll say it was difficult, challenging or stressful — but totally worth it. So just how hard are accelerated nursing programs, anyway?

Not to scare you but accelerated nursing programs are indeed hard and extremely rigorous. But they have to be because patient lives are at stake. If nursing school was easy, everyone would be applying. After all, nursing is one of the most rewarding, diverse and in-demand occupations today.

But before we give you a detailed explanation of what makes accelerated nursing programs so hard, it helps to know if you would qualify for and/or succeed in a fast-track BSN program.

Is an accelerated nursing program right for you?

Designed for students who have a non-nursing college education, accelerated nursing programs leverage this knowledge so that it’s possible to earn a BSN in as few as 16 months.

While the admission criteria for accelerated BSN programs vary by school, it’s common for them to require a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or a decent amount of college credits.

Nursing schools also want to see that you had a solid grade point average during your undergrad. Most accelerated nursing programs require a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, but we’ve seen programs where you only need a 2.75 or a 2.8 to qualify.

In addition to having the right academic qualifications, you need to have the time to devote to your education. In fact, many nursing schools discourage their students from working while earning their BSN at an accelerated pace. After all, an accelerated nursing program is a full-time job in itself.

How does an accelerated nursing program work?

Accelerated nursing programs build on your previous college education so that you can begin professional nursing study on the first day of class. When it comes to the curriculum, accelerated nursing programs comprise a rigorous, fast-paced blend of:

  • Fundamental nursing courses that establish the foundation of your education. Some accelerated nursing programs have students complete these courses online.
  • Nursing labs that facilitate your safe, effective application of core nursing skills and clinical judgment in a mock hospital setting.
  • Clinical rotations that provide real-world experience in diverse areas of practice such as adult care, medical/surgical, mental health, pediatrics and public health.

Together, these learning components prepare you to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam with confidence and begin your career as a practice-ready nurse.

What is life like as an accelerated nursing student?

Accelerated nursing students are typically career changers or recent college grads. Students who enter these programs often come from a background in biology, health sciences or psychology. But that’s not to say those who studied accounting, marketing or sociology wouldn’t be successful in such a program.

nurse walking outside with coffee

For the most part, being an accelerated nursing student is an overwhelming experience, particularly during the first semester. Why? Because as a first-semester student, you’re not entirely sure what to expect and you’re trying to figure out how to balance your intense workload and personal life.

As a full-time accelerated nursing student, you could easily spend up to 60 hours per week on your nursing studies. And while you need to be committed to your studies to keep pace, you must also set aside time every week for your self-care. This is where a lot of students struggle.

When students get so wrapped up in their studies and forget to take breaks, they tend to crash and burn. Self-care is vital to your success in an accelerated nursing program. Whether it’s meditating every morning or going to the movies once a week, you need an outlet to relax and recharge so you can feel more confident in the face of challenge.

By the second semester, most students are in a groove, which makes everything start to feel more manageable.

You can succeed in an accelerated nursing program.

There’s no reason to fear an accelerated nursing program; if you work hard and do your best, you’re bound to be a successful nursing student. Think of yourself as an Olympic sprinter. To come out of an accelerated nursing program a champion, you need to remain disciplined and focused as you go for the gold.

Here’s some advice to help you reach the finish line.

1. Be proactive, not reactive.

As an accelerated nursing student, your schedule and workload will seem insane. If you don’t manage your time wisely, you’ll feel like you’re drowning in tasks. So be sure to invest in a comprehensive planner.

While some consider it an old-school time management tool, you’ll find that a student planner that lets you plot out your to-dos on a daily, weekly and monthly basis will be worth its weight in gold. Essentially, it’s a good visual aid that helps you avoid the pitfalls of procrastination by bringing more structure and routine into your life.

2. Be smart about studying.

When you’re an accelerated nursing student, there’s no time to waste. Every minute of your day accounts for something, making it important for you to develop efficient study habits and find ways to boost your learning capacity. But in order to do so, you need to be cognizant of how you best learn and retain information, then get creative with your studies.

woman sitting at desk studying with books

Are you better at absorbing information presented through graphs and pictures? Consider creating notecards that use mnemonics to help you remember key nursing terms. Maybe information sinks in better when you hear it spoken? Record yourself talking about important nursing concepts, then replay the audio as you drive in the car or go for a walk.

3. Be mindful of everything.

Self-awareness is vital to nursing school success. When sitting down to plan your study schedule or routine, don’t forget to take your thoughts, feelings, preferences and energy levels into account. Are you a morning person? If so, you might find it beneficial to study at 7 a.m. as opposed to 7 p.m. Do you need food to function? Then you probably don’t want to study or take an exam on an empty stomach.

Your life after nursing school.

Nursing is among the most rewarding, diverse and fast-growing professions available today. Thereby, once you graduate from nursing school and pass the NCLEX-RN exam, there’s really no limit as to what you can do with a BSN. This is when you’ll be glad you took the accelerated path to the profession.

You can choose to work in a traditional hospital setting or seek out one of the many unconventional nursing careers. You can also pursue certification in a particular area of practice or go back to school for an advanced practice nursing degree.

It’s also worth mentioning that nursing is among the fastest growing occupations today. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurse employment is projected to grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030.

Nurse wages aren’t too shabby, either. As of May 2021, the Bureau listed the mean pay for registered nurses as $77,600 per year, with California, Hawaii, Oregon and Alaska being among the top-paying states for this occupation.

It’s not hard to find an accelerated nursing program.

If you have a college education, whether it be in the form of a bachelor’s degree or credits, we can help you find an accelerated nursing program that matches your qualifications — for free. Simply complete our online form and we’ll get to work. Please note you may qualify for multiple nursing programs. At no point are you obligated to attend any of the schools that contact you.

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Ready to start your nursing journey?